Thursday, April 5, 2007

Search for Iceland Gull and Drive Around Pawnee National Grasslands

April 4, 2007

Bill Cryder and I went looking for the previously reported Iceland Gull(s). We had no luck at the Larimer County Landfill (Larimer County) or Black Hollow Reservoir (Weld). There were plenty of gulls; however we could not pick out an Iceland Gull among them.

We gave up on that quest and headed to Pawnee National Grasslands (Weld). Fortune shined on us today as we found a Mountain Plover in just minutes. It walked the ridge southeast of Hwy 14 & County Road 51.

We drove toward CR 51 & CR 90 (another great location for Mountain Plovers, in the past anyway). None were seen today, however we did find a Sage Thrasher just south of CR 90.

We drove my favorite Mountain Plover Loop (see CoBus website). No additional Mountain Plover could be found. McCown's Longspurs were everywhere. Finding a Chestnut-collared Longspur was a problem. After trying the Plover loop and CR 96 (near Murphy’s Pasture) we decided to drive up to CR 114 & Hwy 85.

Two Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found as we hiked toward the windmill to the southeast. I rarely have to walk all the way to the windmill before finding Chestnut-collared Longspurs. This appears to be one of their favorite nesting locations. Today we only had to hike about 300 yards.

From here, we decided to try for a Short-eared Owl that I have found along the dry creek about a mile north and west of the USDA Experimental Research Office along CR 37. The area is sometimes good for Common Redpolls and Snow Buntings (probably too late in the season for both).

We struck out on the Short-eared Owl (hike 1 mile west from 1 mile north of USDA office), then south along the creek for 0.4 miles. We did find a Great Horned Owl (hike north for 0.3 miles once you reach the dry creek).

The thought was that it was too early for a variety of shorebirds so we skipped Lower Latham Reservoir and Loloff Reservoir and returned to Denver.

April 3, 2007


David Tanahill and I ventured into the mountains today. His goal was to see a DUSKY GROUSE now that they had been split from the Blue Grouse.

At first light we parked at Mt. Falcon Park (Jefferson County). Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches sang voraciously searching for a mate.

Eight male Red Crossbills also sang from the tops of evergreens as several females ate pine cone seeds. A Turkey Vulture circled overhead. Several dozen Mountain Bluebirds also sang and fluttered about the pines. They had to be going after insects, not the pine cone seeds.

We circled the old castle where I had found a Dusky Grouse last month. None there, so we continued on the trail/road to the east. About 50 yards east of the castle our target was found. A male Dusky Grouse stood on a small snow pile looking around. He carefully looked in all directions for an elusive female. It appeared that he was ignoring us; we had gotten really close before spotting him.

We backed off and returned to the car. Additional Mountain Bluebirds and Red Crossbills were observed. At the parking area, three Townsend's Solitaires called that soft high pitched whistled

“eek”. It can be quite irritating when continued for hours (which I have experienced). In moderation though, it is a welcomed sound. One of the Townsend's Solitaires started singing his loud melodious song that is quite beautiful. As we started to leave, a Brown Creeper flew out of the woods and over our heads.

Our next stop was the Dillon area. We managed to find feeders where many Evening Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, Pine Siskins, two Gray Jays, and a Clark's Nutcrackers were frantically feeding. The landowner thought that the several dozen Evening Grosbeaks were keeping other birds (including Rosy Finches) away from the feeders.

We checked the Blue River Water Treatment Plant (Summit). There were no Barrow's Goldeneyes today. Several Mallards and a pair of Green-winged Teal were all that was there.

The pair of Ospreys was back on their nest (along hwy 9, just south of the water treatment plant).

Heading north, we noticed that Wolford Mountain Recreation Area was completely covered with ice.

We sat at the feeders at 9th and Grand in Kremmling for about an hour. Unfortunately, not one bird came by.

Continuing north, we head several hours to kill and detoured over to Stagecoach Reservoir State Park. Only the edges of the lake were free of ice. Few birds were around.

Backtracking, we drove east on Highway 14 toward Walden. Along the way to the Coalmont Greater Sage-Grouse Lek we found 4 Golden Eagles and 1 Rough-legged Hawk. In my experience, every summer at least one Rough-legged Hawk remains in the area. Quite a few Red-tailed Hawks were around also (I loss count at 17).

We still had 2 hours before sunset and continued to Walden Reservoir. Walden Reservoir had few birds so we drove over to Delaney Butte Wildlife Area. The lake only had a pair of Common Mergansers.

We drove on the road going west along the south side of Delaney Butte and found another lake. This lake was much more productive; it included a male Canvasback, 2 pairs of Redheads, American Coot, Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Duck, and 1 Lesser Scaup.

After sunset, we scoped the old Coalmont Lek from Jackson County Road 26. The lek is now on private property and a ranger told us that $60 fines were issued for anyone trespassing on the property. If one does not want close looks at the Greater Sage-Grouse, you can see grouse from CR 26. We counted at least a dozen.

We hurried over to another private lek. It was getting quite dark, and we found no additional Greater Sage-Grouse.

Our next stop was Cameron Pass (Jackson & Larimer). We stopped at several locations searching for Boreal Owls; without success. Conditions were fabulous as there was little wind and a full moon. In spite of having some of the best condition I had experienced up there, we could not locate any Boreal Owls.

Our plan was to drive up to Pennock Pass after dark and look for Flammulated Owls. We drove the 12 miles south of hwy 14 to Pennock Pass just to find a locked gate. Pennock Pass was covered in 8 to 10 inches of snow. It appears that the road will be closed for at least several additional weeks.

We headed back to Denver.

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